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Author Topic: Beach the Electra - what if?  (Read 62894 times)

Monte Chalmers

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Beach the Electra - what if?
« on: July 19, 2012, 07:04:12 PM »

There is so much written material here about this scenario and that scenario, that I felt there must be one about getting the Electra out of the water. But I’m not finding it.   I’ve read Betty’s notes about more than one day of radio transmissions,  the concern  about rising water, and that it was too hot to spend a lot of time in the plane. So on occasions they must have been commuting to the shore.  I think  I would have been considering spending some of the gas when the tide was low ,  turning 90 degrees and running to the beach. Somewhere here at TIGHAR there is a color recreation photo of the Amelia Electra standing in a few inches of water off the coast of Nikumaroro.  In that picture, beaching looks possible - but maybe the actual conditions  just don’t support it.   It certainly would have saved the plane from washing away.  A few days later  it would have been visible to the that  air crew that said they saw signs of life on the island .

Monte TIGHAR #3597
 
« Last Edit: July 19, 2012, 07:06:01 PM by Monte Chalmers »
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Paul R Titus

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2012, 07:40:38 PM »

Interesting concept, Monte....I too believe that one of the most important things to consider at the time would have been the preservation of the aircraft for as long as possible. But now we get into the "woulda coulda shoulda" aspect of the discussion (See this Thread).

Besides, we have no way of knowing what condition the Electra was in post-landing. Maybe the port landing gear had broken off in the landing (the Nessie object), in which case that plane was going nowhere except for over the edge.
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Bruce Thomas

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2012, 07:54:09 PM »

Monte, my memory of the many times the idea of taxiing to the beach has been raised is that the answer from those who have been on the island (Ric, et al.), is this.  The putative "landing strip" is the stretch of reef north of the Norwich City out near the ocean edge of the reef.  One of those TIGHARS visiting Niku is a very experienced airline pilot of large jets, and he has said positive things about the suitability of that area of the reef for landing the Electra, with its large balloon tires (that were intended, after all, for non-paved landing areas).  For example, read what Skeet Gifford said after Niku IV in 2001.

Notwithstanding that the current way of thinking tends toward there having been some kind of mishap with the left landing gear upon landing, those who've been there say that the portion of the reef surface from there to the beach is very rough and treacherous, marked with crevices and pools -- so many, in fact, that it's hard to make one's way on foot from the beach to the smooth reef-edge and back.  As Ric wrote in the Forum back in 1999,
Quote
between this "runway" and the beach several hundred yards away, the coral is very jagged and pitted with large depressions.

Sounding a mite testy, Ric answered someone on the Forum in 2003 who also advanced the idea of simply pointing the plane at the beach and gunning it:
Quote
> What you're missing are the umpteen previous postings that have explained
> that the nature of the reef surface prohibits any taxiing to the shore.
> Only the first couple hundred feet of reef near the ocean is smooth enough to
> land or taxi on.  Move any closer to shore and the reef becomes deeply pitted
> and jagged.

Then, the final impediment to "beaching" the Electra is that there is a river-like ditch that has been scoured out where the reef meets the sandy beach.  It runs southward from the Northwest corner down into the lagoon via the Tatiman entrance.  That further precludes maneuvering a plane up to the beach.  This river-like ditch has a name and is described in Ameliapedia under "boat channel".

Those reef and reef-beach-boundary conditions can be visualized by looking at the 2001 satellite photo that is used on Google Earth.
LTM,

Bruce
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« Last Edit: July 19, 2012, 08:11:21 PM by Bruce Thomas »
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Greg Daspit

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2012, 08:23:04 PM »

Sea level was about 6" lower in 1937 so maybe there was more dry reef at times back then. I did read what Bruce mentioned about the unlikely possibility of getting to the beach.
One thing that could be done to save the plane, for a while, if they could not beach it was to anchor it. Possibly driving stakes into cracks in the reef.
It could explain why the landing gear and/or a chunk of the plane got ripped off and was still there 3 months later even after high tides. If the Bevington object is a piece of the plane, it may have been still tied down, only flipped over.
See item 40. Mooring rods in the Luke field inventory
http://tighar.org/Projects/Earhart/Archives/Documents/Luke_Field.html
Even if they did not bring the mooring rods, something similar could be salvaged from the N.C.
What are the Mooring points on the Electra?

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« Last Edit: July 19, 2012, 08:27:41 PM by Gregory Lee Daspit »
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Don Dollinger

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2012, 08:18:56 AM »

Quote
it may have been still tied down, only flipped over.
See item 40. Mooring rods in the Luke field inventory
http://tighar.org/Projects/Earhart/Archives/Documents/Luke_Field.html
Even if they did not bring the mooring rods, something similar could be salvaged from the N.C.
What are the Mooring points on the Electra?

Ancedotal statements are she was shedding things from one end of the trip to the other.  If she was willing to jettison the flare pistol http://tighar.org/wiki/Flare_gun to save weight I wouldn't think that mooring rods would be high on list of "keep" items.

Also, Not being familiar with Gardner, nor tidal data, and your landing gear is stuck in a reef crevice then would YOU think, if it were you, that additional tiedowns would be required?  Hindsight is 20/20...

LTM,

Don
« Last Edit: July 20, 2012, 08:26:04 AM by Don Dollinger »
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Greg Daspit

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2012, 08:54:59 AM »

Quote
it may have been still tied down, only flipped over.
See item 40. Mooring rods in the Luke field inventory
http://tighar.org/Projects/Earhart/Archives/Documents/Luke_Field.html
Even if they did not bring the mooring rods, something similar could be salvaged from the N.C.
What are the Mooring points on the Electra?

Ancedotal statements are she was shedding things from one end of the trip to the other.  If she was willing to jettison the flare pistol http://tighar.org/wiki/Flare_gun to save weight I wouldn't think that mooring rods would be high on list of "keep" items.

Also, Not being familiar with Gardner, nor tidal data, and your landing gear is stuck in a reef crevice then would YOU think, if it were you, that additional tiedowns would be required?  Hindsight is 20/20...

LTM,

Don

Don, I do think the mooring rods might be something they left behind to save weight. Thats why I said "Even if they did not bring the mooring rods, something similar could be salvaged from the N.C".

I think the belief that the landing gear was stuck in a crevice was a theory that came about when it was believed the Bevington picture showed what looked like a gear stuck upright. The latest work from Jeff Glickmen seemed to show a something consistant with a gear in an upside-down position.

 It would be nice to have a salvaged plane to determine what, if any, tie downs may have been applied or rigged to the plane, and if they contributed to the break up.
3971R
 
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Monte Chalmers

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2012, 06:55:52 PM »

All the responses are appreciated and were interesting.  I KNEW there had to be other people comiing forth with getting the plane out of the water - sorry for not being better at finding my own answers.  But the suggestion that the plane was anchored helps me in seeing how a ripped-off wing could be caused by a mooring strap.  An inverted wing would cause exactly the exposed wheel assembly in the picture.  Wouldn't it be likely in that case (secured by the mooring) that it would have been there longer and seen by someone else?

I started this thread by mentioning Betty.
Last month I added a question in one of my comment if anybody knew if Betty is still living (since she has to be about 89 years old based upon TIGHAR information.  I never got an answer.  Out of curiosity  I did some research.  I knew we had to have gone to the same high school because St Petersburg didn’t have but one  until 1954.  I went to the SPHS web site and looked in alumni - yes, she’s listed  - class of 1941.  She was one of three listed names (maybe all that’s left) for a planned class reunion .    The list included email addresses, and since I’m sort-of like an old neighbor - I sent off a brief email.  She’s not in Florida anymore. I included that  TIGHAR would be conducting an expedition in July  that we expected (I did anyway) would prove her notes valid.  The message was apparently delivered - as it didn't come back.  But so far I haven't received a reply - maybe she passed.  I was thinking of sending another note had the news been good from Niku.
 
Monte TIGHAR #3597
 
« Last Edit: July 20, 2012, 07:00:01 PM by Monte Chalmers »
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Gary LaPook

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2012, 08:12:50 PM »

Quote
it may have been still tied down, only flipped over.
See item 40. Mooring rods in the Luke field inventory
http://tighar.org/Projects/Earhart/Archives/Documents/Luke_Field.html
Even if they did not bring the mooring rods, something similar could be salvaged from the N.C.
What are the Mooring points on the Electra?

Ancedotal statements are she was shedding things from one end of the trip to the other.  If she was willing to jettison the flare pistol http://tighar.org/wiki/Flare_gun to save weight I wouldn't think that mooring rods would be high on list of "keep" items.

Also, Not being familiar with Gardner, nor tidal data, and your landing gear is stuck in a reef crevice then would YOU think, if it were you, that additional tiedowns would be required?  Hindsight is 20/20...

LTM,

Don
There is a lot of misinformation out there. see:

https://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,689.msg13757.html#msg13757

https://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,592.msg10365.html#msg10365
Read that thread to reply 227

https://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,592.msg10561.html#msg10561

https://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,592.msg10648.html#msg10648

gl

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John Ousterhout

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2012, 09:38:57 PM »

From what I've read here and elsewhere, to attempt to drive an aircraft onto the beach from the reef would have driven it into fairly deep water in the "boat channel".  If someone tried that with an Electra, the main gear would have dropped into the boat channel and the props would have hit either the water, or the beach.  In either case it would have stopped the engines.  Worse yet, such an aircraft could not be further moved by its own power.
If this scenario is what happened to Amelia, then what moved the Electra out of sight?  A big shiny Electra stuck in the boat channel would have been obvious to any searchers.
Cheers,
JohnO
 
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John Balderston

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2012, 12:11:48 PM »


I would have been very surprised if the Electra LE10 didn't have tie down points on each wing and the tail.  That would have been standard on all Electras.  A picture of a TWA L10 shows that there were tie downs on the wings and tail.


To be specific linked photo is Model 12 Electra Jr.  However, tie down config appears the same as Model 10 - attached NR16020 image clip courtesy of Purdue archive.   Cheers, John
John Balderston TIGHAR #3451R
 
« Last Edit: July 29, 2012, 09:25:44 PM by John Balderston »
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Jay Burkett

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #10 on: July 24, 2012, 11:02:06 AM »

I have just recently seen photos of the reef when the tide is out.  It appears to be a lot smoother than the roads around here.  The question I have is how extenssively has that flat portion been surveyed (i.e. walked) during these various expeditions?  If so, were crack and crevases seem that could have conceiveably snagged a tire?  Another question:  Is the possible location of the Nessie object on this flat portion that is exposed at low tide?
Jay Burkett, N4RBY
Aerospace Engineer
Fairhope AL
 
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Jay Burkett

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #11 on: July 24, 2012, 11:23:52 AM »

One more thought.  If the reef is as flat as it look in the photos it would not take too much a rise int he tide to cover it completely.  What is the tidal variation (low tide to high tide) on the island?  If the Electra was sitting on its gear, on the flat portion of the reef with the tide out, does the water rise enough to float it off its gear?  This would, of course, exclude waves and storm tides/surges.   For example, I am located in Mobile, Alabama.  The tidal variation in Mobile Bay is only about 18".  Such a small change would not be enough to float the aircraft.  I know that there are some places in the world where the tidal variation acan be in the tens of feet (think Anchorage, Alaska).  What I am getting at is would the normal tides be enough to float the aircraft or would a storm tide be required? 
Jay Burkett, N4RBY
Aerospace Engineer
Fairhope AL
 
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Jay Burkett

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #12 on: July 24, 2012, 07:50:34 PM »

Even assuming the aircraft was on the mains (i.e. not its belly), and was intact, a 4.2 ft rise probably would not be enough to float the Electra even with all of the buoyancy afforded by the empty wing tanks and the fuel tanks in the fuselage.

If the aircraft was landed wheels up there would be a better argument for floating it once the tide came in.  It would not explain a main gear jammed in a crevasse.

Jamming one of the mains, which resulted in a ground loop and the collapse of one, or both mains, would leave the aircraft on its belly and a candidate for being floated on a rising tide much sooner than if the aircraft had been successfully landed on the mains.  It would also leave a main gear sticking up to be photographed.

I'm sure all of this has been hashed out dozens of times here.  Seeing those reef photos with the tide out just jump started a thought process ...
Jay Burkett, N4RBY
Aerospace Engineer
Fairhope AL
 
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C.W. Herndon

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #13 on: July 24, 2012, 09:12:02 PM »

Even assuming the aircraft was on the mains (i.e. not its belly), and was intact, a 4.2 ft rise probably would not be enough to float the Electra even with all of the buoyancy afforded by the empty wing tanks and the fuel tanks in the fuselage.

If the aircraft was landed wheels up there would be a better argument for floating it once the tide came in.  It would not explain a main gear jammed in a crevasse.

Jamming one of the mains, which resulted in a ground loop and the collapse of one, or both mains, would leave the aircraft on its belly and a candidate for being floated on a rising tide much sooner than if the aircraft had been successfully landed on the mains.  It would also leave a main gear sticking up to be photographed.

I'm sure all of this has been hashed out dozens of times here.  Seeing those reef photos with the tide out just jump started a thought process ...

Jay, don't forget these things:

1. If both main landing gear collapsed the right engine could not be run to keep the batteries charged for the radios.
2. The electrical circuits, many low in the aircraft, would short out when the water reached them.
3. No electrical, no radios, no post loss radio signals.
4. The fuel tanks in the fuselage would not provide any buoyancy until the cabin started to flood, and then only the part of the tank(s) actually in the water.
5. The wings and fuselage would lose their buoyancy as they filled with water.
6. Because of items 4 & 5 the aircraft would probably float nose low and fairly low in the water.
7. Wave action at high tide could have had a huge effect on the aircraft whether it was on its landing gear or its "belly".
Woody (former 3316R)
"the watcher"
 
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Malcolm McKay

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Re: Beach the Electra - what if?
« Reply #14 on: July 24, 2012, 09:48:50 PM »

Even assuming the aircraft was on the mains (i.e. not its belly), and was intact, a 4.2 ft rise probably would not be enough to float the Electra even with all of the buoyancy afforded by the empty wing tanks and the fuel tanks in the fuselage.

If the aircraft was landed wheels up there would be a better argument for floating it once the tide came in.  It would not explain a main gear jammed in a crevasse.

Jamming one of the mains, which resulted in a ground loop and the collapse of one, or both mains, would leave the aircraft on its belly and a candidate for being floated on a rising tide much sooner than if the aircraft had been successfully landed on the mains.  It would also leave a main gear sticking up to be photographed.

I'm sure all of this has been hashed out dozens of times here.  Seeing those reef photos with the tide out just jump started a thought process ...

However the tidal rise is not a smooth process with the aircraft gently submerging etc. It is accompanied by waves and the ever present wind. The problem with all the scenarios which see the Electra landing on the reef and ultimately being washed off is not that it couldn't have landed and been washed off, but that that scenario is required to explain the unproven post-loss radio messages. I keep saying that this is a circular argument and I am right.

The pilots I have spoken to regarding the possibility of a landing on the outer reef and the post-loss radio messages just regard that whole thing with incredulity. All suggest that the only move for even a halfway competent pilot in the circumstances, like low fuel, that required a life saving landing on the island is that you would put the aircraft down as close to the beach as possible. Your first thought would be to save your own life not the aircraft. Even Earhart, who we know had a lot of money tied up in the aircraft would not put it down on the outer reef at low tide, when she and Noonan would know that once the tide and waves got up the aircraft would be lost immediately - and if Earhart didn't know Noonan being an old Pacific hand would know. It defies logic to propose that both of them thought they could just park the aircraft there and wait until help showed up then have it recovered or flown off.

So if the post-loss radio messages are still regarded by some people as being genuine then I would suggest that you need to find another uninhabited island and look along the shoreline. 
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